Showtime’s ‘The Comey Rule’ Arriving on MOD DVD Oct. 27

Showtime’s two-part limited series “The Comey Rule” will be released on DVD Oct. 27 by CBS and Paramount Home Entertainment. The DVD will be manufactured on demand and will available  through Amazon and other online retailers.

Based on former FBI director James Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty, “The Comey Rule” recounts events surrounding the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, and centers on the turbulent relationship between Comey (Jeff Daniels) and President Donald Trump (Brendan Gleeson), whose strikingly different personalities, ethics and loyalties put them on a collision course.

The cast also includes Holly Hunter, Michael Kelly, Jennifer Ehle, Jonathan

Banks and Oona Chaplin. “The Comey Rule” was adapted for the screen and directed by Billy Ray.

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Washington

DVD REVIEW:

Street Date 8/25/20;
Lionsgate;
Documentary;
$14.98 two-DVD set;
Not rated;
Stars Nicholas Rowe, James Robinson, Nicholas Audsley, Nia Roberts. Narrated by Jeff Daniels.

This comprehensive study of the life of George Washington, notably produced by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, offers an enlightening and entertaining mix of well-known stories about the famed general, and quite a few that many with which many viewers may be unfamiliar.

The documentary originally aired in three two-hour installments in February on the History channel, and this DVD version is well timed to take advantage of any lingering interest in the founding fathers left over from the buzzworthy Disney+ presentation of Hamilton, as well as the continuing discussions over the appropriate hagiography of America’s historical figures in light of modern attitudes over the rejection of racism.

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The first part deals with Washington’s early military career, fighting for the British in the 1754-63 French and Indian War. His inability to rise in the ranks of the British Army spurs him to take command of the Continental Army in the American Revolution, which is covered in the second part. The third part details the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, America’s troubled early attempts at self-rule, the creation of the U.S. Constitution, and Washington’s two terms as America’s first president.

The format relies on dramatic re-creations of key events in Washington’s life, mixed with documentary-style narration from Jeff Daniels, and interspersed with interviews from modern scholars discussing what made Washington an ideal American hero and a unique historical figure.

It’s a bit of a return engagement for Daniels, who played Washington in the 2000 TV movie The Crossing, about the general’s famed boat ride over the Delaware River and the Battle of Trenton.

The documentary is also something of a primer for military history, giving a good overview of battle strategies for many of the key engagements in which Washington was involved.

It’s interesting to see some of the re-creations in light of other recent presentations about the founding of America. For instance, the segment on the Battle of Yorktown offers a number of details that will give viewers a better sense of what they are talking about during the song about the battle in Hamilton.

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The narrative doesn’t shy away from examining Washington’s ownership and treatment of his slaves, but it also doesn’t editorialize or pass judgment on him, concluding that it is a complicated issue and leaving the viewer to decide based on the fuller context of the historical record.

The only real quibble with the presentation would be how the show glosses over the final two years of Washington’s life, jumping from the end of his presidency in March 1797 to his death in December 1799. The documentary doesn’t relate many of the details of his “retirement,” during which he tended his farm, expanded production of his branded whiskey, and maintained an active political voice, even accepting command of an army raised in preparation for a potential war with France. Nor does it delve into how he developed the infection that led to his death, working too hard in freezing weather. That his doctors likely bled him to death trying to drain his body of the toxins is, however, well covered.

The Catcher Was a Spy

DVD REVIEW:

Street Date 10/2/18;
Paramount;
Drama;
Box Office $0.7 million;
$22.99 DVD;
Rated ‘R’ for some sexuality, violence and language.
Stars Paul Rudd, Mark Strong, Sienna Miller, Jeff Daniels, Guy Pearce, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson, Connie Nielsen, Shea Whigham.

The Catcher Was a Spy is one of those strange-but-true tales that really drives up the curiosity factor based on its somewhat bizarre premise alone.

The film is based on a book of the same name that relates the true story of a former Major League Baseball catcher who was tasked with assassinating the head of Germany’s atomic bomb program during World War II.

The actual circumstances make a lot more sense when played out in context of course, even if the man at the center of it, the Jewish baseball player-turned-spy Moe Berg, would seem to defy most attempts to classify his character.

Berg, played here by the always affable Paul Rudd, was an avid reader who spoke several languages, demonstrated his smarts on radio quiz shows and was labeled an oddball for his eccentricities by coaches and teammates during an otherwise underwhelming 15-year baseball career.

After being invited to join an all-star team of Major Leaguers touring Japan in 1934, Berg learned from a Japanese friend that a war between the U.S. and Japan was likely inevitable, so he snuck onto the roof of a Tokyo hospital to film footage of the city’s harbor. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Berg gave the footage to U.S. intelligence services and ended up joining the OSS (precursor to the CIA).

Incidentally, while the film doesn’t dwell on the particulars, this was the same 1934 tour touted in Ken Burns’ Baseball in which a 17-year-old Japanese kid named Eiji Sawamura struck out Hall of Famers Charlie Gehringer, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx in succession. (Sawamura was killed a decade later serving the Japanese navy in WWII.)

Anyway, the OSS eventually assigns Berg to a team looking into the activities of famed German physicist Werner Heisenberg (namesake for Walter White’s alias on “Breaking Bad”), trying to gauge his involvement in helping Germany develop an atomic bomb and assess what progress, if any, he has made on the project. The key moment comes when Berg is sent to stalk Heisenberg (played by Mark Strong) during a lecture in neutral Switzerland and shoot him on the spot if the scientist offers any hint that he is working on an atomic weapon.

Part baseball movie, part spy thriller, The Cather Was a Spy is an intriguing wartime procedural carried primarily by its old-fashioned sensibilities and the likability of its main cast. The screenplay is by Robert Rodat, who is no stranger to WWII movies having penned Saving Private Ryan.

The DVD includes seven deleted scenes that run a total of about nine minutes. Many shed a bit more light on Berg’s character and motivations, and had some of them been kept they might have helped the character study bona fides of a film that runs a svelte hour-and-a-half as it is.

Paramount Releasing ‘The Catcher Was a Spy’ on Disc and Digital Oct. 2

Paramount Home Media Distribution will release the stranger-than-fiction espionage thriller The Catcher Was a Spy on DVD and digitally Oct. 2.

Based on a true story, the film stars Paul Rudd as Moe Berg, a professional baseball player who became a spy during World War II. The cast also includes Mark Strong, Sienna Miller, Jeff Daniels, Guy Pearce and Paul Giamatti.